An Indianapolis charter school will be one of the first in the country to use a virtual reality program to teach science to high school students.
Hope Academy, on the city’s far northeast side, is purchasing the software and curriculum from a tech-startup to supplement its traditional classroom teaching.
The software, designed by Iowa-based VitoryVR, offers middle school and high school coursework based on the NextGen Science Standards. The science curriculum currently offers 24 units, such as the solar system or Newton’s Law of Gravity. In all, there are 120 unique virtual experiences.
Principal Linda Gagyi says students will use the virtual reality classroom as part of their more traditional classroom learning based on Indiana’s academic standards.
“It’s amazing way to deliver standards and curriculum and the VR experience,” she says.
As part of a science lesson this year, senior Sofia Merrick can travel to New Mexico to check out a massive telescope or to get there, she’ll just slip on an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. She tried out the program Thursday.
“It just really brings you into it. It’s like you are actually seeing it. The one I was doing it was the solar system. It was like, I was like floating through the solar system,” Merrick says.
Steve Grubbs, founder of VitoryVR and former Iowa state lawmaker, says the VR curriculum was created to keep students engaged and allow them to experience virtual reality “fields trips” related to science topics.
Indiana state lawmakers Sens. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) and Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), and Reps. Jeff Thompson (R-Lizton) and Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) attended the demonstration.
Later this month a handful of schools in St. Louis, Des Moines, the Quad Cities area in northwest Illinois and southeastern Iowa, and Bermuda will start using the virtual reality software too.
Hope Academy is spending around $18,000 on four virtual reality workstations and licenses.
Hope Academy is for students in grades 9-12 recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Around 40 students are enrolled for the current school year.